Jason Rezaian comments on the failure of U.S. Iran policy to take the Iranian people’s interests into account:

Indeed, U.S. policies over the past few decades have always seemed out of touch with aspirations of the Iranian people. Perhaps by design?

The United States — this administration and previous ones — has consistently rejected engaging with Iranian civil society. The White House remains fixated on the regime and does nothing to support the actual aspirations of the Iranian people. Our harsh sanctions have only made things worse by lowering living standards and conveying a sense of implacable hostility toward the general population.

U.S. foreign policy debates typically neglect the views of the people in other countries that are most likely to suffer the costs of our government’s policies. Iran hawks ignore the “actual aspirations” of the Iranian people because they presume to know what those aspirations are and take for granted that the Iranian people want whatever they want. When they are presented with proof that this is not so, they arrogantly plow ahead with no regard for the damage that their preferred policies do to the people they claim to support. We should know by now that advocates of aggressive and hostile policies cannot and do not have the people’s best interests at heart when they want to impoverish, ruin, and attack their country. The feigned interest in the people’s grievances against their government is a ploy designed to gain domestic support for a purely destructive agenda under false pretenses.

This phony concern was on display again in the president’s recent statement:

The Iranian economy “continues to collapse” in large part because of the collective punishment that the Trump administration is inflicting on the entire country. The civilian population suffers greatly, and it is happening mostly because of a cruel and sadistic policy that the president has endorsed for more than a year. It is obvious that Trump and his administration are not friends to the people of Iran, but perhaps it needs to be said once again that they are doing all they can to cause tens of millions of Iranians pain and misery simply because they can. They are not only failing to engage with Iranian civil society, but they are also making strenuous efforts to help destroy it. In spite of all this, Iranian activists and dissidents will endure and continue their work, but their lives have been made much harder by U.S. policy for no good reason.

Our government has shown the Iranian people nothing but hostility for almost two and a half years, and so it is understandable if many Iranians have concluded that the U.S. considers them to be our enemy. The administration’s Iran policy does not represent what most Americans want, but until our government’s actions change it is difficult for the people being strangled by U.S. policies to believe that. The U.S. should have an Iran policy that neither courts conflict nor punishes the people for their government’s transgressions. Our government should be willing to support the aspirations of the Iranian people by ending the outrageous economic war waged against them, and it should choose to engage in normal trade and diplomacy with Iran instead. We have seen what forty years of pointless isolation and sanctions have achieved, and it will be up to a future administration to try something else.